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Assistant treasurer racks up AU$2,000-a-month internet bill footed by taxpayers

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(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

Gaffe-prone Australian Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert is being scrutinised again after charging taxpayers more than AU$2,000 a month for his home internet bills.

Robert was only returned to the federal frontbench a few weeks ago, after he was sacked in 2016 over a trip to China for a mining company he was financially linked with.

But now, the federal government is scrutinising his AU$90-a-day home internet bills, which are dramatically higher than those of all other MPs.

“I’ve asked the special minister of state to report back to me,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Friday.

“Once I’ve heard from the special minister of state, then we’ll take the next step.

“I think [voters would] want an explanation, and that’s why I’ve asked for one.”

Robert’s May bill alone totalled AU$2,832, while the vast majority of other MPs spent under AU$300 a month, and most about AU$100 a month.

Parliamentary expense records in the three months to May show Robert spent more than AU$2,000 a month on average for his Gold Coast residence.

The Queensland Liberal MP told Fairfax Media that connectivity issues were responsible for the high charges, because he had to use a wireless service as cheaper connections were unavailable when the service was installed.

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Your tax dollars at work

“I went and checked my most recent reports; it’s about AU$100 a month,” Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

“There is no doubt that Stuart Robert is a very controversial figure, and that controversy seems to follow him.”

Robert last week confused debt and deficit in a TV interview, and was caught taking a selfie when the interview began.

Labor MP Graham Perrett, who pays less than AU$100 for an unlimited internet deal, said it’s “bizarre” that the assistant treasurer can’t do better.

“Any normal person would be making a call to their internet provider to work out what’s going on,” he told Sky News on Friday.

The assistant treasurer said he racked up a high bill in May because he used 300 gigabytes of data, so he had to pay for extra data after exceeding his 50GB limit.

Robert has been charging taxpayers more than AU$1,000 per month for data at his home since 2016.

“My family home is located a significant distance from the telephone exchange, resulting in poor broadband internet connectivity,” Robert said in a statement late on Friday afternoon.

“At the time, a 4G home Wi-Fi internet connection was the only way to receive reliable and stable internet access

“My internet, like many in semi-rural areas, was previously unreliable, which interfered with my ability to perform my parliamentary and ministerial duties.”

The NBN’s rollout map shows building has begun in the Gold Coast, where the assistant treasurer’s electoral office and postal address is located.

Robert confirmed that he has an NBN installation appointment booked.

“When installed, this will result in an immediate drop in costs to a level similar to other parliamentarians.”

The treatment of Robert has contrasted sharply with the attitude of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who in 2014, when he was Communications Minister and had responsibility for the National Broadband Network, famously roused on a member of the public who complained about a lack of fixed-line broadband.

“Just curious:- if connectivity was so vital to you why did you buy a house where there was no broadband available?” Turnbull tweeted at the time.

Speaking in June 2016, disgraced former Deputy Prime Minsiter Barnaby Joyce claimed that internet speeds of 25Mbps were good enough for Australians living in regional and remote parts of the nation.

A week earlier, then Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Christopher Pyne mirrored the same sentiment.

“They simply didn’t need the speeds that Labor was promising,” Pyne said at the time.

This week, NBN revealed that more than 1,500 of its fixed-wireless cells had at least one service downloading more than 1TB of data during the month of May.

Despite this, NBN said in response to a Senate Estimates Question on Notice that it had forecast to have less than 1.4 percent of fixed-wireless users on the 100/40Mbps speed tier by 2022, before the company ripped up plans to offer such services.

As the national broadband wholesaler looks to end its discount at the end of this month that attempted to move users from lower speeds up to 50Mbps plans, retailer Aussie Broadband told ZDNet that ISPs will need to choose between offering high- or low-speed tiers, as they won’t be able to do both.

“Aussie has chosen to play in the higher end of the market using the new bundled offering exclusively, as it provides sufficient CVC capacity to ensure a good experience for customers,” Aussie Broadband MD Phillip Britt told ZDNet on Thursday.

“In our view, it will not be possible for providers offering a service under AU$55 a month floor price and an unlimited offering under AU$69 using the bundles.

“Providers below this price point will most likely be short-changing their customers on the CVC bandwidth provisioned.”

With AAP

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Ram unveils limited 1500 TRX Ignition Edition, Longhorn SouthFork, and 1500 (RED) Edition

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The 2022 Ram 1500 TRX is getting a trio of limited-edition models with custom features and unique exterior appointments. The 1500 TRX Ignition Edition, 1500 Longhorn SouthFork, and 1500 Ram (RED) Edition recently made their first appearances at the State Fair of Texas. The latter is particularly worth mentioning as Jeep, Fiat, and Ram cemented with U2 frontman Bono’s (RED) organization to fight global health crises.

“Ram customers demand even more, and our new models deliver that with a selection of exterior and interior appointments and content for greater personalization,” said Mike Koval Jr., Ram Brand Chief Executive Officer – Stellantis.

The 2022 Ram 1500 TRX Ignition has the TRX Level 2 Equipment Group. The package includes custom Ignition paint and body graphics, a panoramic sunroof, a spray-in bed liner, a bed step, cargo tie-downs, a cab-mounted LED brake light, and bespoke 18-inch machine face black wheels. Under the hood is the same 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 motor pumping out 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.

Other goodies include orange interior stitching, embroidered TRX logos on the seatbacks, copper carbon fiber trimmings, a heads-up display, and an orange center console badge. The Ram TRX Ignition starts at $91,585 (plus $1,695 destination), and only 875 units will arrive at US dealerships near the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, the 2022 Ram 1500 Longhorn SouthFork is all about luxury. It replaces the Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary model and has an impressive lineup of standard kits like a multi-function tailgate, metal pedals, a deployable bed step, LED bed lighting, a spray-in bed liner, and a cargo divider.

It also has a Mountain Brown interior, bucket seats, suede door bolsters, and leather interior trim. The Ram 1500 Longhorn SouthFork starts at $61,620 (plus $1,695 destination) and arrives at dealerships later this year.“Buyers demand a good-looking truck with easy-to-use features. They tell us their Ram trucks are an extension of their personality, and they want to stand out from the crowd,” added Koval.

Finally, the 2022 Ram 1500 (RAM) RED Edition is available in a crew cab body style and starts at $63,250 (plus $1,695 destination). The (RAM) RED model has red RAM letters on the front grille and a (RED) badge on the center console lid. Engine choices include a 5.7-liter V8 with 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque or Ram’s 3.0-liter turbocharged EcoDiesel V6 with 260 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque.

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2022 Honda Passport arrives with a fresh face and new rugged TrailSport trim

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Honda is fortifying its SUV lineup with the redesigned 2022 Passport five-seat crossover. The new Passport comes with an outdoorsy TrailSport trim with chunkier bumpers, a wider track, and 18-inch wheels with chunky tires. Standard across the board is a more rugged façade (derived from the Honda Ridgeline) and a mild splattering of technology updates.

Honda has yet to show the standard 2022 Passport, so let’s focus on the off-road-ready TrailSport version. “Some may not realize the true rugged, off-road capabilities of our light trucks,” said Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “Now they’re getting tough, rugged looks to match, and the addition of TrailSport will further enhance the off-road capability of our vehicles in the future.”

The 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport has chunkier front and rear bumpers, a unique grille, and silver skid plates. It also has special Orange TrailSport badges on the grille and tailgate. In addition, TrailSport has a 10 millimeter wider front and rear track for a burlier stance and better stability. It also offers more room to accommodate all-new machine-finished 18-inch wheels wrapped in TrailSport-specific off-road tires.

Under the hood remains a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to a nine-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. However, standard in Passport TrailSport and Elite is Honda’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. The drivetrain can automatically send up to 70-percent of engine torque to the rear wheels in rugged terrain. It can also send 100-percent of that torque to either the left or right rear wheels to keep you going.

All AWD Passport models have 8.1-inches of ground clearance and can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. All trims also get 50.5 cubic feet of cargo space and a power tailgate. Passport also has under-floor storage compartments in the back to keep wet clothes and dirty boots from mingling with your precious cargo.

Meanwhile, every 2022 Honda Passport has standard Honda Sensing. The package includes a collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Additional standard safety equipment includes LED headlights, smart entry with push-button start, a rear-seat reminder, and a rear seatbelt reminder.

Inside, the 2022 Honda Passport gets an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Furthermore, the EX-L trim has perforated leather seats and contrasting stitching, while Passport TrailSport has amber interior ambient lighting, rubber floor mats, orange stitching. Pricing remains forthcoming, but the new Passport arrives at dealerships this winter.

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Aura EV Concept is a collaboration of brilliant British minds

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The Aura EV Concept is a long-range, all-electric speedster boasting 400 to 500 miles of driving range. It may not have the supercar-styling of a Bugatti Chiron or McLaren Elva. Still, the Aura EV is more about substance than style and results from a collaboration between four British companies: BAMD Composites, Conjure, Astheimer, and Potenza Technologies.

The four companies also got help from the UK Office for Zero-Emission Vehicles, with a common goal of creating the first homegrown long-range British EV. And when it comes to electric vehicles, aerodynamics is critical in squeezing out every ounce of driving range from the batteries, and the brainiacs behind Aura EV know this all too well.

But the future of Britain’s EV industry should not only have a more extended range. It needs to be sustainable as well, reducing every ounce of carbon footprints along the way. Aura EV has a lightweight composite body derived from natural fibers. In addition, its svelte yet minimalist silhouette is the result of computational fluid dynamics to make it as slippery as a fish in the water. And if those covered rear wheels are any indication, Aura EV can slice the wind almost effortlessly.

Unfortunately, some details are pretty scarce, but we were lucky to receive more information about Aura EV. According to sources, the car has two 44 kWh battery packs. One of them is on the floor, while there’s also a battery pack under the hood, enough to propel Aura EV to 400 miles (643 km) on a single full charge. If you came here looking for numbers, we’re sorry to disappoint. We’re expecting performance to be peppy for your weekend excursions, but don’t expect it to outrun a Rimac Nevera or Lotus Evija.

One of the central premises behind Aura EV is to reduce people’s perceptions of range anxiety, enabling buyers to adopt the EV lifestyle without further hesitations. Other quirks include a custom steering wheel with a self-positioning screen and a hi-tech human-machine interface with 3D visualization. Meanwhile, Aura EV’s Android-sourced battery and charging software can monitor the state of charge within 0.5-percent for superior accuracy, ensuring drivers will never unexpectedly run out of juice or wait unnecessarily at a charging station.

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